Emma Raducanu’s year in full from angry Piers Morgan tirade to Roger Federer advice

Emma Raducanu: British teen wins US Open

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Emma Raducanu’s stunning breakthrough season came to an end two weeks ago, as she lost to world No 106 Wang Xinu at the WTA 250 in Linz. In a matter of months, the teenager went from a virtually-unknown player ranked at world No 345 to a household name, Grand Slam champion and top 20 player. Following the conclusion of her unprecedented year, Express Sport is taking a look back at the highlights and talking points from Raducanu’s 2021.

June – Professional debut

Raducanu made her debut on the pro WTA Tour on June 7, while ranked down at world No 366.

The 18-year-old received a wildcard into the 250-point Nottingham Open, but lost to compatriot Harriet Dart, then ranked world No 143 in the opening round, 6-3 6-4.

June – Wimbledon wildcard upgraded from qualifying to main-draw after ITF quarter-final

Shortly after losing in her main-tour debut, Raducanu got straight back on the ITF tour to compete in another tournament in Nottingham, and beat Storm Sanders and eigth seed Timea Babos en-route to the quarter-final.

Her impressive performance on the grass courts of the Nottingham ITF W100 earned her an upgraded Wimbledon wildcard.

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The Bromley local had been given a wildcard into the qualifying event, but tournament organisers gave her last-minute direct entry into the main-draw to make her Grand Slam debut, impressed by her antics in the ITF event.

June/July – Puts her name on the map after a stunning Wimbledon debut

Raducanu made her Wimbledon debut while ranked down at world No 338, defeating the No 71 player Vitalia Diatchenko 7-6(4) 6-0 in a stunning maiden Grand Slam match, that saw her name hit the headlines as one of Britain’s newest young rising sporting stars.

She then defeated 2019 French Open finalist and former world No 14 Marketa Vondrousova 6-2 6-4  in the second round, and secured another straight-sets win over Sorana Cirstea in the third round 6-3 7-5, to become the youngest British woman to reach the second week of Wimbledon in the Open Era – all shortly after sitting her A-Level exams.

By this point, Raducanu had become a household name in Britain, hitting headlines even while England were making it through the rounds at the Euros.

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However, her incredible Grand Slam debut on home soil came to an end on July 5 in the fourth round, when she retired while 4-6 0-3 down to Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic, experiencing breathing difficulties.

July – Row over Wimbledon retirement

After quickly becoming the most talked-about sportswoman in the country, Raducanu’s retirement from her round of 16 match at the All England Match garnered huge attention.

In the immediate moments after her retirement, many wondered whether her issue was linked to mental health and questioned whether she had a panic attack, as the then-18-year-old did not release a statement until two days later.

In that time, Piers Morgan launched angry tirades on social media, as the former Good Morning Britain presenter addressed comments made by retired seven-time Grand Slam John McEnroe, who had claimed Raducanu couldn’t handle the “pressure” of the tournament after garnering interest.

“McEnroe told the truth. Ms Raducuna’s a talented player but couldn’t handle the pressure & quit when she was losing badly.

“Not ‘brave’, just a shame. If I were her, I’d tell my fans to stop abusing McEnroe, & seek his advice on how to toughen up & become a champion like he was,” said the 56-year-old, as he received backlash from the likes of Andy Murray for his tweets.

August – International WTA Tour debut and first 250k final

Raducanu, who shot to world No 179 following her exploits at the All England Club, received a wild card into the WTA 250 Silicon Valley Classic off the back of her Wimbledon success – her first tour-level event outside of her home country.

She suffered defeat to Zhang Shuai, as the then-world No 51 defeated her 6-3 6-2 on the North American hard courts.

The Bromley teenager didn’t let that get her down, as she made it to the quarter final of the ITF W100 Landisville just a week later.

Raducanu was granted another wildcard, this time into the Chicago Challenger WTA 250k event, and stormed her way into the biggest final of her career, overcoming top seed Alison Van Uytvanck 7-6(7) in her first-round match before eventually falling to fellow teenage sensation Clara Tauson in three sets.

August/September – Fairytale run and historic Grand Slam victory at US Open

Following her success in Chicago, Raducanu reached a career-high of world No 150 as she came into New York for US Open qualifying.

The teenager came through her three qualifying rounds without dropping a set, and was drawn against Australian Open runner-up Jennifer Brady in the opening round, but the American was forced to pull out injured and was replaced by lucky loser Stefanie Voegele.

She then went on a tear, beating the likes of Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic and 17th seed Maria Sakkari en route to the final, without dropping a set.

Raducanu met fellow teenage breakout star Leylah Annie Fernandez in the final, with the Canadian beating top players and former Major champions including Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka in her path to the championship match.

It was the young Brit who was victorious, making history as the first-ever qualifier to win a Grand Slam, doing so without dropping a set across all ten matches at the US Open, having defeated Fernandez 6-4 6-3.

Life since – WTA Tour firsts, celebrity status, Roger Federer advice

Off the back of Raducanu’s unprecedented title run in New York, she received invitations to exclusive events including the Met Gala and the latest James Bond premiere, and signed on to be the face of luxury fashion brands including Dior and Tiffany & Co.

The US Open victory also propelled the now-world No 19 to newfound levels of superstardom almost overnight, and the likes of Roger Federer have offered advice to the young star as she navigates criticism in the still-early stages of her career.

Speaking to GQ in September, the 20-time Grand Slam champion said: “I was following Emma Raducanu’s incredible run in Wimbledon and also Naomi Osaka these last few years – it’s been amazing, both of their stories.

“But it hurts when you see what happens and when they don’t feel well. The stress is so great.

“And I think a lot has to be down to social media: the first ten years of my life there was no social media, maybe I had just a website, then the next ten years social media was everywhere.”

Commenting on how others in tennis could help relieve the pressures on young stars like Raducanu, Federer continued: “We need a revolution. Or at least an evolution of where we are today. I think we do need to help, coach and mentor the younger generation more.

“I can’t imagine going through the beginning of my career with social media; I have no clue how I would have handled it. For every ten nice comments there’s always one negative comment and, of course, that is the one you focus on. It’s a horrible situation.

“Even when I am feeling down I know I need to act a certain way in front of the world’s press. We need to remember that tennis players are athletes and professionals, but we are also human too.”

As well as mixing with celebrities and getting advice from some of the greats of the game, Raducanu has continued to achieve new things on the match court.

At last month’s Transylvania Open, she beat Polona Hercog 4-6 7-5 6-1 to secure her first-ever victory on the WTA Tour, in a match that was also the first three-setter she had ever played at professional level.

Raducanu then made it all the way to the quarter-finals in Romania, before heading to Linz for her final tour-level event of the season, losing to the world No 106 in a tight three-setter, but has ended in the top 20 of the rankings, with a year-end spot of world No 19.

Although her season is over, she has two exhibition events coming up – next week’s Champions Tennis in the Royal Albert Hall and the Mubadala World Tennis Championships next month – and has hired a new coach for her first full off-season.

Raducanu is in good hands with her new mentor Torben Beltz, who guided Angelique Kerber to the world No 1 ranking and two of her three Grand Slam titles.
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